A systematic study of the major ion chemistry of the Ganga source waters—the Bhagirathi, Alaknanda and their tributaries—has been carried out to assess the chemical weathering processes in the high altitude Himalaya. Among major ions, Ca, Mg, HCO3 and SO4 are the most abundant in these river waters. These results suggest that weathering of carbonate rocks by carbonic and sulphuric acids dominates in these drainage basins. On an average, silicate weathering can contribute up to ∼ 30% of the total cations.
The concentration of total dissolved salts in the Bhagirathi and the Alaknanda is 104 and 115mg/l, respectively. The chemical denudation rate in the drainage basins of the Bhagirathi and the Alaknanda is, respectively, 110 and 137 tons/km2/yr, significantly higher than that derived for the entire Ganga basin, indicating intense chemical erosion of the Himalaya.